Alright, alright. Lots of people had some serious griping and complaining to do over 2016 and anxiously waited for their chance to wave a final goodbye to what some called “the worst year ever” (although that’s quite extreme considering human history).
Anyway, I get it. It had some rough spots and some downright ugly ones, there is no doubt.
But, as C.S. Lewis put it in The Screwtape Letters through the voice of the demon Screwtape, “He leaves the creature [Christian] to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He [God] wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him [God] best.”
The downs are some of God’s favorite refining places. They are what shape us and teach us and lead us on to deeper walks in the Will of our Heavenly Father. So, below, I’ve listed the five things I learned in 2016. It wasn’t all bad, after all.
1. Never tell God, or your husband, what you won’t do.
About two years ago I told my husband that I would never move anywhere north of Tennessee and together we began praying for what God wanted us to do next. God must have had a few good-hearted laughs at our expense. He knew full well what was in store and what He was going to ask us to do. So now, two years later, we are staring down the icy snowy barrel of a move to Chicagoland.
Yes, I should have known to not tell God what I wouldn’t do or where I wouldn’t go. He has a sense of humor. I am also grateful that He pours out grace and mercy and gentleness in abundance. He has carefully brought us here so that when the opportunity came and the walls blew down, we had not a moment of doubt. God is in the business of changing hearts and minds.
2. Do not attempt potty training over the Holidays. Just don’t.
As my pastor recently enjoyed reiterating, “the Holidays are Holy Days.” And I couldn’t agree more. In hindsight that should have been my sign.
Don’t ruin these Holy Days with plans of potty training the toddler. These are sacred times and it shouldn’t be degraded with such bathroom dreams.
But, of course, I didn’t listen. And here I find myself having thrown in the towel amid leftover Christmas cookies and a lingering smell of urine that I can’t quite locate.
3. I’d rather be a mess with friends around me than perfect and alone.
This isn’t a lesson I’ve just started learning but it is one I’ve fully embraced this year. This means that you can come to my house even if laundry is spread across the couch, dishes are piled in the sink, the kids are screaming at each other, and the urine smell is still detectable. I don’t care. I just love the company and I cherish the sound of laughter, conversation, and friendship that fills the rooms. I might even be able to throw together something for you to eat.
If you are my friend, you won’t care about the mess or the smell. I wouldn’t think any less of you if I showed up at your house to find toys scattered across the floor and children behaving badly. Why would I expect you to think any less of me?
4. Distance is only a number.
While I miss their faces and the ability to see them whenever my car decides to drive to their house. And I miss knowing that I can call on them in a heartbeat and they will be there. I have learned the power of a phone call, a road trip, and a little FaceTime to make distance nothing more than a number.
And as I prepare for my own departure, leaving even more precious friends behind, I am comforted knowing that they are in my heart and only a phone call away. And, even with the distance, they are there for me no matter what.
5. Crying with the broken is hard but also one of the best places to find yourself.
I have shed many tears this year over the pain of loved ones and special friends. Never in my past have I ever found myself feeling so deeply for the hurt and the pain of another human being. And while tears are hard, being able to weep with those who weep is a gift. A share in the burden. A friend for the hurting. A safe place for the broken. And while I never want to see someone I love hurt, I would never want them to cry alone.
Never underestimate what can happen in a single year. This year my grandmother passed away. My sister nearly did as well. I went through loss of some kind with more than one friend. I wrote a book. I taught my first women’s class. I ran my fourth half-marathon. I kept two tiny humans alive for another 12 months. I waved goodbye to two of my closest friends as they drove away to new adventures. I stepped (and am stepping) out in faith into my own new adventure.
I have waited and waited and waited for the Lord’s answers. MY heart was changed in so many ways. My faith was challenged. That is just the beginning. And I am beyond hopeful for another year.
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